Collaboration with Nathan Su
Limbox is a housing solution, a political statement, and an urban revitalisation project. Part built solution and part online strategy, Limbox provides affordable housing for asylum seekers whilst also facilitating community building and data collection. Limbox aims to provide asylum seekers in Melbourne with the best possible chance of recovery and integration, and aims to provide the Melbournian community with the best possible chance to get to know asylum seekers face to face.
Currently, the community housing of asylum seekers is a contentious topic. Mass demand has inflated rental prices in some areas of the city, which contributes towards negative press and community resentment towards asylum seekers. Additionally, the housing that is sourced is commonly woefully inadequate, with asylum seekers already in legal limbo forced to live, for years at a time in cramped conditions, away from necessary services and supportive communities. As a housing solution, Limbox aims to meet these challenges by taking advantage of Melbourne’s urban sprawl and provide appropriate housing in the dead spaces between laneways, next to train stations, behind shopping strips and on the edge of parks. Small pieces of land tucked within the CBD, or large wastelands in the outer suburbs. These areas are owned by the Crown or the Victorian government but are unsuitable for major development. Limbox therefore also aims to revitalise these areas with a design that builds creates recreational and commercial spaces to be shared by asylum seeker and local communities. The modular design of each Limbox also accounts for asylum seeker families that are larger than the Australian norm and allows for organic community expansion, which is central to the vibrant growth of existing immigrant communities in Melbourne.
The Limbox process is deigned to build upon the existing role of community organisations in providing housing to asylum seekers in Melbourne, Australia. Asylum seekers arriving in Australia by plane submit their refugee application to DIAC. Asylum seekers contact a community support organisation for help with accommodation. An organisational case-worker helps asylum seekers to access the Limbox website. Asylum seekers create a profile with demographic information and their preferences for where they want to live. This profile is matched against a list of sites available for the construction of Limbox. Asylum seekers select a site and then design the orientation and layout of their Limbox.
The community organisation places an order for the Limbox. The Limbox is fabricated off-site, and constructed at the chosen location over a single day. During their time living in the house, Asylum Seekers may pay an upkeep cost to their support organisation. When Asylum Seekers gain permanent residency or leave Australia, the Limbox returns to the organisation. New asylum seekers can now move into the house. The funds from the upkeep cost can be used for any repairs or to transport or reconfigure the unit.
The online component of Limbox would simplify the resettlement process, whilst also serving as a data collection and communication tool. Under the Limbox system, all community organisations would be able to access a website detailing sites around Melbourne appropriate for the construction of Limbox. The profile of each site would include proximity to schools and services, and demographic data on the surrounding neighborhood and existing asylum seeker residents.
Historically, Melbourne is a city built by boat people. From England, Ireland, China and Afghanistan – they built roads, cleared land, and mined gold. After WWII immigrants from Italy, Greece, Turkey and Yugoslavia arrived, followed by refugees from Indochina, Chile, and Poland. Fleeing war and economic collapse, immigrant communities brought to Melbourne new food, religions, languages, and celebrations. Australia currently implements a policy of indefinite detention towards asylum seekers arriving in the country by boat. This is both illegal under the UN Refugee Convention, and a waste of tax-payer funds. Limbox is therefore an optimistic project that pre-empts the dismanteling of off-shore detention and the expansion of on-shore asylum application processing.
Asylum seekers could integrate with and enhance Melbourne’s existing cultural diversity. With more security and stability, asylum seekers could better support themselves as they rebuild their lives. Those that gain refugee status and become permanent residents would be better equipped to find work and become part of the urban community. One third of Melbournian refugees have post-high school qualifications and others are working in low skilled industries currently suffering from labour shortages. Helping asylum seekers to access secure housing and build social networks would ideally position them to become part of Melbourne.